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31 Days

Presented by

The Motley Fool
Day 10

Fight Sleep Procrastination

Fight Sleep


Words by Cory Ohlendorf

Staying up late illustration

Look, we all understand that sleep is one of the greatest tools for health. Going to bed early and getting a full, restful night of sleep might be the ultimate act of self-care. So why do so many of us say 'screw it' and stay up? I, myself, am guilty of this. I don't know if it's genetic or simply a personality quirk, but ever since I was young I've refused to give up the day—preferring to stay up late well past my bedtime, despite the consequences.

With more and more of us working longer hours these days, this phenomenon of prioritizing personal leisure time over sleep after a long day is becoming more common. After all, when you've given so much of yourself throughout the day, a guy's gotta have a little “me time,” right? For your own hobbies and interests or simply to relax and be unproductive. But at what cost?

Staying up late illustration


This practice of stealing time back from your sleep to gain a little leisure time is called “revenge bedtime procrastination.” The name sounds a bit melodramatic, but it makes sense. As journalist Daphne Lee explained in a viral tweet, when people feel they don't have much control over their daytime life, it can make sense—if only temporarily—to give up some shut-eye in order to regain some sense of freedom during late-night hours.

Experts have long warned that insufficient sleep is a serious global public-health problem. The recent Phillips Global Sleep Survey, which tracked responses from 12 countries, showed that 62% of adults worldwide feel they don't get enough sleep, averaging 6.8 hours on a weeknight compared to the recommended amount of eight hours.

Of course, simply staying up late isn't necessarily a sign of trouble. According to the National Sleep Foundation, there are three key factors that define sleep procrastination:


A delay in going to sleep that reduces one's total sleep time.


The absence of a valid reason for staying up later than intended, such as an external event or an underlying illness.


An awareness that delaying one's bedtime could lead to negative consequences (but they choose to engage in it anyway).

So how do we stop it? If revenge bedtime procrastination is a problem for you, here are some expert tips on how to fight it.


Prioritize a
Consistent Bedtime

Alanna McGinn, certified sleep expert and founder of Good Night Sleep, says that, like a diet, you should stick to an 80/20 rule for bedtime. 80% of the time, always hit that desired time and then give yourself 20% of the time to stay up a little later (to finish a movie or go out with friends). She says when we follow consistent sleep patterns, “we're able to sync our sleep with our internal 24-hour biological clock, sending signals to our body to be awake or asleep.” And that's what helps you fall asleep faster and easier but also wake easier and more refreshed in the morning.

Your Schedule

According to Ciara Kelly, a lecturer in work psychology at Sheffield University's Management School, busy schedules are often at the root of revenge bedtime procrastination. So take a hard look at your daily demands and try to cut out things that aren't vital or tasks that are eating up all of your time. Then schedule in time for yourself—block out a little “me time” to do things that make you happy or to do nothing at all!

Start Your Nighttime
Routine Earlier

Experts agree that the sooner you get ready for bed, the sooner you'll fall asleep. I know from personal experience that once you floss and brush your teeth, you're not going to pour another cocktail or go back to the pantry and break out the tortilla chips. To get you into the new routine, set an alarm for an hour before you would normally begin getting ready for bed. Go through your nightly routine and then relax for a bit. You'll soon find that once you relax, you'll get sleepy and since you're already ready for bed, it's easier to resist the urge to stay up late. You simply turn off the light and slide into bed.


Recent reports suggest that more than 40% of adults experienced increased problems with sleep during the pandemic.

(Source: Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine)